I would like to highlight a 30 year member of the tennis club here at VDO. This venerable gentleman is a Nonagenarian (I had to look this up - I know what an octogenarian is, but this is a new word for me). Yes Aunt Mary, it means someone who is 90-99 years old!!
Let me introduce you to Les Morton.
Les was born in Snoqualmie Falls, Washington, home of the Weyerhaeuser Timber company. He grew up in Fall City WA, about 6 miles away and 25 miles from Seattle. Les went to the same school from grades 1 through 12, graduating in 1942. While there, he played both basketball and tennis, excelling in tennis, mainly due to his mother's guidance and coaching. He started playing tennis at 6 years of age and by high school he was the King County singles champion (not including Seattle). After high school Les went to Washington State College in Pullman, WA for one year and then was drafted in 1943.
He spent the first six months in the "Army Specialized Training Program" or ASTP training to be an army IQ engineer. He was taking courses at the Los Angeles City College until the army realized they weren't going to win the war with engineers.
He was then sent to Camp Howze in Texas as a foot soldier in the 103rd infantry division. In 1944 he was sent to Marseille, France with the first group since the Allied Forces took Marseille, ten days after the Germans retreated. He spent the winter at the south end of the "Battle of the Bulge". His platoon then marched across Germany and Austria battling until the war ended.
He was then transferred to the Army of Occupation in Vienna, Austria where he attended classes for 3 months at the University of Vienna. As an only child, Les had a burning desire to learn and get an education as a tribute to his mother, a teacher who instilled in him the will to succeed in school. While at the University of Vienna, he studied German, History and Integrated Calculus. During this time the Russians were on one side of the Danube and the US Army of Occupation was on the other! He also attended the University of Heidelberg for a short period, again fueled by his desire to learn.
He was then sent back to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was discharged. This allowed him to pursue his education full time at Washington State University where, after 3 years, he graduated with a degree in forestry. Three days after graduation, he was hired by the State of Washington Division of Forestry, where he remained for 30 years. While attending Washington State, he played on the varsity tennis team, playing a very integral part in their success.
In 1950 Les met his wife, Donna, with whom he had 3 children, 2 daughters and a son. His son tragically died of cancer at 42 years of age which, of course, was a terrible loss for the whole family. His two daughters are both married and living in the Olympia area of Washington. The three children produced six grandchildren - five grown grandsons, one granddaughter and, in October 2014, his first great-granddaughter, Georgia Morton was born and named after Les' mother.
In his forestry career, he spent eight years in timber sales, where the Department of Natural Resources managed 2.5 million acres of state lands. In his last eight years, prior to retirement, he was supervisor of the Forest Land management division. In this capacity, he was responsible for growing 22 million trees (mainly Douglas Fir) annually, in two gigantic nurseries, one in Olympia and the other in Bellingham.
Les retired in 1981 and in 1985 he and Donna started coming to VDO for two weeks at a time in a motorhome. When he arrived here Les was one of only two 4.0 players - the other was Sam Fenely who still plays on the 4.0 ladies team! Les was president of the VDO tennis club when courts 3 and 4 were being built.
In his 70s and 80s Les was nationally ranked for 20 years in the seniors division, playing in tournaments all over the US.
Sadly after 49 years of marriage, his wife Donna passed away in 1999 here at VDO. In his 90s, Les continues to spend winters in his park model at VDO and maintains two residences in Washington state.
He has enjoyed some interesting hobbies over the years. The primary one being bottle collecting - where on Sundays he and his family would go on picnics to various abandoned dumps to collect bottles!! He now has 500-800 bottles at home in Washington. His hobbies also include rock collecting, gardening, starting vegetation of all kinds from seeds & cutting and, of course, tennis.
Les owns 1/4 mile of property on "Raging" River, where every four feet he planted native and exotic trees and bushes he started himself. He attempted a vegetable garden but there were just too many deer that devoured anything he grew. He also has started 25-30 potted plants every years that he gives away to family and friends or plants on his acreage. He originally owned 20 acres of timber where, after giving 6 acres and a home to his three Morton grandchildren, he still maintains a home and 13 acres of some of the largest trees found in North America. This is the place where he feels most connected to nature, where he walks and talks to his trees. Hey - these are really big trees and who knows, at his age maybe they answer!
Pete Nelson, a television personality famous for building tree houses, has been pestering Les to build tree houses in his huge trees. He claims he and Les can collect $150-200 a night in rental fees from people seeking a new experience. So far, Les has refused - but he suspects his daughters may do this after he goes to the bigger tennis court in the sky.
At 90, Les is a very solid 3.0 player and if the ball goes anywhere near his side of the court, you can bet the opponents will be faced with a tricky, spinning return.
Les' motto is "you look after your side, I'll look after mine".
Les Morton, I would be honoured to be your playing partner any time.